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Could Flying Drones Save Lives on Mount Everest?

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the potential use of flying drones to make life safer on Mount Everest by reducing the burden on Sherpas who risk their lives hauling garbage and gear from high altitudes.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Could flying drones make life safer on Mount Everest?

1. What are the potential benefits of using drones on Mount Everest?

  • Drones could be used to haul garbage and gear off the peak, reducing the number of trips that porters make through the deadly Khumbu Icefall.
  • This could help alleviate the burden on Sherpas who risk their lives carrying heavy loads at high altitudes.

2. What were the results of the drone test flights conducted by Nepali officials?

  • The officials conducted test flights using a Chinese cargo drone called the FlyCart 30 at Base Camp.
  • On the first day, the drone was able to fly from Base Camp (17,600 feet) to Camp I (19,900 feet) but was unable to land at the higher camp.
  • On the second day, the drone was able to complete the journey while carrying a 40-pound load.
  • The officials were encouraged by the drone's performance, but acknowledged that high altitudes present challenges for rotor-powered aircraft.

3. What are some of the challenges of using drones on Mount Everest?

  • The extreme altitude in the Himalayas can reduce the lift generated by spinning blades, making it difficult for drones to operate.
  • Topographic features can block the radio signals that transmit directions from the drone operator, causing "range problems" during the test flights.
  • The officials plan to send a second drone operator to a higher altitude to help resolve the signal issue.

4. What is the plan for using drones to transport waste on Mount Everest?

  • Following the successful test flights, officials told The Kathmandu Post that they expect drones to start hauling trash back to Base Camp as early as 2025.

[02] What are the current challenges and risks associated with the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest?

1. What are the dangers of the Khumbu Icefall?

  • The Khumbu Icefall, which towers above Base Camp, presents deadly occupational hazards for the hundreds of workers that haul gear up and down the mountain.
  • The icefall is prone to avalanches and collapsing ice towers, and it is riddled with dozens of crevasses.

2. What safety strategies have been used to mitigate the risks in the Khumbu Icefall?

  • Sherpas have refined safety strategies, such as charting the route through the glacier, ascending early in the morning when ice is firmer, and in some cases, using helicopters to ferry gear to higher camps.
  • However, these strategies have not completely eliminated the dangers, and the Khumbu Icefall remains a site of frequent death and disaster.

3. How have recent rule changes affected the use of helicopters in the Khumbu Icefall?

  • Earlier this year, the local municipality enacted a rule prohibiting the use of helicopters to ferry gear to higher camps.
  • However, this rule was recently walked back after delays in the Icefall Doctors completing the route, and the municipality will now allow helicopters to deliver gear to Camp II.
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